Shanghai; where the East meets West

“So how do we get to our hotel from here?”, asked my niece, Wanda, upon arriving the Shanghai Pudong International Airport last November. Wanda had always wanted to follow me overseas and I said she could follow me to Shanghai under few conditions; partly pay her flight tickets and have her own pocket-money as this auntie was broke. Luckily she works to support her study, while having her own money to buy what she wants. Very independent girl.

“Ha, ha, I have no idea! I thought you did the research on how to get there?” I asked back. “Haha, I did not. Been busy with my A Level exam, remember?” was her reply.

We apparently had not done any research on the ground transportation in Shanghai. So both of us went around the airport looking for a way to get to our accommodation at Zhizaoju Road, Luwan District, Shanghai. We saw that the Maglev train would cost us ¥50 each, so I decided that we should take the cab. I was lazy to go through the hassle to get on the train and then get  on a bus to a place that is unknown to me; I mean how do I know where to get off? Taking a cab is much easier anywhere in the world as all I need to do is get in the cab, hand over the printed address to the driver, sit back and relax, and enjoy the view.

We arrived at the hotel about an hour later with ¥140 poorer. That’s RM70, and I thought it was not bad after all as I had to pay the same from Ampang to KLIA.

We were both very tired and the room was not ready even when I requested for an early check-in. We had to wait for about half an hour for the hotel to clean a room for us and we got to the room, it was not even like what was shown on the internet. Talk about ‘for illustration’ purpose only!! I should have known better. That would had not been the case if I had the money to stay in one of the hotels under the moonlit sky with many stars on the other side of the river in the heart of the city. This hotel that I booked was shining dimly under a couple of stars. I was broke, I certainly could not lavish on anything above than that.

I could see the disappointment on Wanda’s face but I told her that we wouldn’t be spending much time in the room as we would be out the whole day for 5 days. We just need a place to dump our things and beds to sleep at night.

The main reason for the trip was for me to attend Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair (CCBF) for 3 days and the other 2 days for us to explore Shanghai.

On the day we arrived, we slept until 3pm and decided to go out to find something to eat. It was cold and windy and we had no idea where to go. From Zhizaoju Road to Xietu Road, then Mengzi Road, then across Xujiahui Road to arrive at Madang Road Station.

walkluwan

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walkluwan3Top two photos were taken around 4.30pm while the bottom one around 5.40pm. 5.40 was like 8pm already.

It was around 4pm but it was getting dark because hours of daylight are getting shorter with the onset of autumn. We thought of taking the train to Shanghai City Center but then scrapped the idea as we would be having the same problem of finding a place to eat at the city as we did not have a map or guide of places to eat; in our case the halal ones. So, we just walked aimlessly out of the station to Madang Road. We walked about 10 minutes before we saw a bakery shop, and a sushi restaurant few doors away. We bought some breads for later and had Udon noodles, Shrimp Spring Rolls, Chinese tea at the sushi restaurant.

udon

We did not even know the name of the restaurant; we asked but the waitress replied back in Chinese. Luckily the menu was in English/Chinese. So we knew what to eat. Phew. Oh, the place seemed to have WiFi and once again we had a problem asking for the password. I just handed the phone to the cook (who went out for the kitchen to help us as the waitress had no idea what we were asking about) to type the password. Voila! We were connected back to the world known to us; Instagram for me and WeChat/Whatsapp for Wanda!! I posted some photos while eating. One must be wondering how on earth did I got on Instagram as it was blocked a month earlier following a protest in Hong Kong. A ‘little bird’ told me to install an app from Google Play before I leave for Shanghai and so I did. And that led me to share photos of beautiful Shanghai with Instagram friends.

On the second day, we went to the CCBF located at Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & Convention Center, Guo Zhan Road by cab.

ccbf

ccbf2

The second edition of the CCBF was held from 20 to 22 November was a feast of children’s publications for industry professionals and young readers to enjoy. Supported by the official Chinese publishing-related bodies, the 2014 CCBF offered a rich agenda of activities and opportunities to meet key players at all levels of the publishing industry with the aim of stimulating international rights trading, opening up new sales and distribution channels for children’s publications and, ultimately, expanding partnerships in the global market. I met with a Chinese publisher to show some of the work done for their future books and quickly got the deal. It will be launched in Singapore around May 2015.

After the book fair we went to the River Mall located across the road. We thought of looking for a place to eat but could not find any suitable ones, so we headed back to the hotel. After taking shower, we walked around the hotel to look for something to eat. We were always hungry as we walked a lot and that the weather was cold. We found Carrefour Express few blocks away from the hotel and guess what we found? Mamee Chef!!! We we laughing like crazy all the way to our room.

mmeechef

With a full tummy, we got ourselves connected to the Internet afterwards to keep up with home and to upload photos. And then slept. I woke up around 5am and stared on the ceiling. Used the time to draw some.

It was the same routine the next day and we went to the book fair. I did some side income there drawing for people. Sold some of my painted bags as well. Within few hours I became ¥500 richer.

After the book fair, we went back to the hotel to keep my drawing tools and then took a cab to the Old City of Shanghai. We paid ¥14 as the old town is situated on the same side of the river. Our main transportation here was cab as we do not want to get lost and spend our time finding our ways around. It was an ideal choice for an old aunt and her niece.

oldcityOur photo was photo-bombed by this Pakistani couple. LOL.

The Old City is the area inside the ancient walled city of Shanghai; it is one of the most picturesque areas of the city, with many buildings in traditional Chinese style. The city began as a walled medieval town at least 1000 years ago. The walls, built mainly for protection against Japanese pirates, ringed the city around what are today Remin and Zhonghua Roads. The walls however, have been demolished.

We bought something for people at home as well as something four ourselves; Cheongsams to wear on the last day of the book fair. It costs me ¥340 for both cheongsams! And I was broke again. Anyway, I made same plan again for the last day of the book fair and thought I could be rich again if I draw more. We discussed and wished that we could make around the same amount or maybe a bit more.

It was around 9pm that we decided we spent enough. We hailed a cab but was not successful. One cab asked for ¥50 but knowing that the fair was much cheaper, we decided to walk out from the area a bit. We walked pass a market and to the main road.

ducks

After unsuccessful waiting for half an hour and being overtook by some locals, we decided to cross the road and quickly got ourselves a cab.

viewfrompbView from the pedestrian bridge.

Come the last day of the book fair, our wish came true. I made ¥1200!! Yippee! It was a great experience as I had never done that before. I should be doing that a lot to cover my travel cost, kan? But seriously, it was tiring. I took a break few times and told the people that I will be back in half an-hour but before it was even half an-hour, they were already queueing.

medrawAll these were sold. I was out of paper!

We set aside for our fare to airport and spent the remaining to visit Tianzifang and The Bund on our last day in Shanghai.

Tianzifang is a renovated residential area in the French Concession area of Shanghai, China. Also known for small craft stores, coffee shops, trendy art studios and narrow alleys, the place has become a popular tourist destination in Shanghai, and an example of preservation of local Shikumen architecture.

Tianzifang is largely hidden from the neighbouring streets, as it grew from the inside of the block outward and has more than 200 diverse small businesses such as cafes, bars, restaurants, art galleries, craft stores, design houses and studios, and even French bistros.

tzftzfcoffeetzf2

The Bund is a waterfront area in central Shanghai. The area centres on a section of Zhongshan Road (East-1 Zhongshan Road) within the former Shanghai International Settlement, which runs along the western bank of the Huangpu River, facing Pudong, in the eastern part of Huangpu District.

The word “bund” means an embankment or an embanked quay. The word comes from the Persian word band, through Hindustani, meaning an embankment, levee or dam (a cognate of English terms “bind”, “bond” and “band”, and the German word “Bund”.

The Bund houses 52 buildings of various architectural styles, generally Eclecticist, but with some buildings displaying predominantly Romanesque Revival, Gothic Revival, Renaissance Revival, Baroque Revival, Neo-Classical or Beaux-Arts styles, and a number in Art Deco style.

bundWanda walking at The Bund.

bund2Shanghai buildings seen from The Bund.

bund3One of the classic buildings at The Bund.

We were both tired from walking and decided to go back to the hotel around 5pm. We had a rest before walking again to the sushi restaurant. We packed our things to leave for home the next day.

We took a cab to the nearest Maglev station, had coffee, paid ¥100 for the Maglev ride, reached the airport in 10 minutes!, checked-in, had lunch and coffee again, walked to the security area and boarded the flight. And that wrapped our trip in Shanghai.

maglevcoffee

Shanghai, till we meet again.  Zài huì!

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Art & Places: Giant Sundial, Pudong, Shanghai, China

When I saw this giant sundial while visiting Shanghai last February, it reminded me of my son who is quite amazed with how a sundial works.

Completed in April 2000, this giant sundial sculpture, known as Oriental Light, is situated at the eastern end of Century Avenue, forming the entrance to Century Square, Pudong, Shanghai. This large scale sculpture  which represents a huge time piece also serves as public modern art and the first of it’s kind of large-scale urban landscape sculptures in China. The large elliptical frame measures 400 square meters and the total length of the stainless steel tubes used exceeds 6,000 meters. Oriental Light was built based on an idea by French architect, Jean Marie Charpentier.

A sundial is an instrument that measures time by the position of the sun. Called “rigui” in Chinese, a sundial is a timepiece that indicates the daylight hours by the shadow that the gnomon casts on a calibrated dial in ancient China. A typical sundial is made up of a bronze pointer and a stone dial. The earliest sundial in the world was created some 6,000 years ago in ancient Babylon. And the earliest sundial of China, according to historical documents, was the flat horizontal dial plate, or the horizontal sundial invented in 574 AD.

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Andaz Shanghai hotel – a boutique-inspired hotel

 

When I step foot at the hotel during the Avon trip last month, my jaw dropped. I was so amazed that the hotel is so beautiful.

Andaz is Hyatt’s new collection of contemporary, boutique-inspired hotels, located in the dynamic, distinctive neighbourhoods of key world cities and inspiring resorts. This hotel is located in Xintiandi—a landmark entertainment area in the heart of down town Shanghai, internationally acclaimed for its restored Shikumen architecture housing stylish restaurants, bars, and boutiques.

Dining and entertainment options include Andaz Lounge, the heart of the hotel in the main lobby; Éclair, an all-day patisserie specialising in classic, cream-filled French pastries; and the signature restaurant Hai Pai—meaning “modern Shanghainese spirit”—a combination of French bistro and Shanghainese brasserie which offers unpretentious comfort food and aspires to being Xintiandi’s friendly neighbourhood restaurant.
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And when I got to my room, I was more amazed. It is so beautiful and I felt like a VIP. I think I got the Andaz large King room. Very spacious.

This stylishly contemporary 48-sqm guestroom has one king bed along with views of Huai Hai Road shopping neighbourhood. LED lights on the ceiling adjust to suit any mood, while the modern bathroom includes heated floors, electronic toilet and glowing translucent bathtub. Complimentary amenities include Internet access, daily newspaper and refreshments in the Andaz lounge.


My favourite spot is the sitting area. It overlooks Shanghai city and the glass window is awesome; My glass window says ‘You’re Alive. Do Something.’  Elaine, the Avon Manager got a quote in French.

Guess how much the room cost? 1400 Renmingbi (about RM680!). For more information about Andaz Shanghai hotel, do visit their website. You can also book the room online. Thank you so much to Avon for sponsoring the whole thing.

I am feeling generous and decide that first commenter got to get a Shanghai fridge magnet from me and a linky love in this post.

First commenter and lucky winner:
Mariuca 

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In pursuit of shopping happiness in Shanghai

The Avon trip to Shanghai was very pact with events and on the second day after visiting Avon’s R&D Center and lunch, we were told by Alex, our tour guide, that we could do shopping at Nanjing Road.

Nanjing Road is known as the #1 Commercial Street in Shanghai. The road stretches from The Bund east towards Hongqiao, with Shanghai’s centerpoint People’s Square in the middle. Nanjing Road is about 6 km long and world’s longest shopping district. And can you believe that it attracts over 1 million visitors daily? Better believe it.

There are hundreds of shops, many with a rich history. As a rough generalization, Nanjing East Road is more historical but Nanjing West Road is brash, modern and caters more to the status-conscious luxury shopper. There’s Louis Vuitton, Girodano, you-name-all-the-established brands, they got it.

Pizza Hut ada, KFC pun ada…

But, these stuff were not quite what I was looking for. All these branded stuff can be found easily in KL. Not really satisfied, I asked Alex are there any other shopping areas that sell things Shanghaian. At first he was reluctant, maybe because we were short of time, but after explaining that I am going to get a cab the next day before leaving for the airport in the afternoon, then he told me that there is a place called Old Shanghai Street. I liked the sound of the name and told other members in our group about it. We decided to go together the next morning after breakfast.

Nevertheless, I took some pictures along Nanjing Road before leaving on the tour back to the hotel to get ready for the launching dinner.

Cab and bus…

There’s Baleno, Tissot, Sofitel, eh KFC lagi…

Mei Sin (very front) while Siti and Elaine in the middle.

The most interesting view on Nanjing Road. Look at the cheeks! 

So after breakfast the next day, we took two cabs (there were 5 of us) and headed to Old Shanghai Street. Cab fare was like 15 Renmingbi, very cheap.   Upon seeing old buildings, I clapped my hands. But that went without sound as I was wearing knitted gloves. The weather was 5 Degree Celcius and taking off the gloves for few minutes would makes my hands go numb. So I jumped to joy to show my excitement instead after getting out of the cab. “This is more like it,” I told Elaine and Siti and they nodded in agreement.

Old Shanghai Street. Yay!

Soo Wincci posed for my camera in front of a cotton candy and strawberry toffees stall.

A gift shop…

A stamp shop…

Traditional clothing shop…

traditional music instruments shop…

and more shops.

I could go on and on and on showing you all the pictures but I think these are enough to put a heavy load on your computer. Basically, I had fun exploring all the shops on Old Shanghai Street with Elaine. Siti, Wincci and Mei Sin were missing  since cotton candy and strawberry toffees. Wincci texted us saying they could not find us and that they were going back to the hotel first. Haha, Elaine and me got carried away in doing our shopping. Who wouldn’t? This is the best place to go shopping in Shanghai. Frankly, two hours were not enough. Elaine even have the thought of extending our stay another day just for shopping. But that was not possible as she has an event the next day in KL.

If you are visiting Shanghai, do drop by Old Shanghai Street. Just take a cab from your hotel and before you leave the hotel, do take the hotel card so that it will be easier for you to return to the hotel by showing the card to the cab driver. Most of the cab drivers do not speak English.

Here is me. I found two-hours of pure happiness doing shopping on Old Shanghai Street.

I always say shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist.
~Tammy Faye Bakker

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Discover ANEW: Day 2 – A Visit to Avon R&D Center, Shanghai

One of the main event while on the Discover ANEW Avon Trip is to visit Avon R&D Center in Shanghai. So on the 2nd day in Shanghai, we were taken to the center on a tour bus. The visit was my first one to R&D lab or center and I was excited to see what it looks like.

Located in Jinqiao, Shanghai the 40,000 square Avon building houses scientists in the areas of product development, safety and quality testing, microbiology, chemical engineering and consumer research.

After putting on our lab jackets, Dr, Zhi Lu, the Senior Manager, Regional R&D, APAC Avon, told us a history behind little perfumes showcased in the guest area at the reception lobby.

Originally, Avon founder David H. McConnell did not intend to create a beauty company. He was actually a book salesman and he founded Avon in 1886 after realizing his female customers were far more interested in the free perfume samples he offered than in his books. The first perfumes he created was (see above picture) the Little Dot perfume Set, five single-note fragrances – Lily of the Valley, Violet, Heliotrope, White Rose and Hyacinth.

This Avon building achieved LEED Platinum 2011 certification; a Gold standard for commercial interiors under the U.S. Green Building Council‘s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. The green features include:

  • High-efficiency water fixtures, which will reduce water consumption by 44%
  • Energy-efficient lighting systems
  • Waste recycling
  • An interior fit-out containing 31% recycled material
  • 87% of office equipment and appliances are Energy Star rated to reduce energy usage.

As for the lighting, Avon uses motion sensors in private offices and meeting rooms shut off lights. To maximize the use of natural daylight, work-station dividers are low, permitting light to penetrate deep into the floor plate. However, exception is given to the Color Lab as lighting is very crucial in developing colors correctly.

 

We were taken on a tour to all labs in the 6-storey building. According to Dr Zi Lu, researchers at the Shanghai R&D center work closely with Avon’s regional brand marketing center to allow for the development of more specialized products for the Asian markets including the Malaysia market. It is focussing on developing beauty products including skincare, personal care, color and haircare.

One of the lab on the 1st floor. Final tests are done in here before they send products for manufacturing.

Color labs on the 3rd Floor is one of my favourite labs.

Colors are coded by numbers.

Here is one researcher working in the Color Lab. He tested the colors on himself. 

I met Reese Witherspoon in the Color Lab but she was looking at the mascara all the time.

Haircare Lab.

Perfume Lab.

Skincare Lab.

A place where they monitor facial progress during the usage of skincare products.

Overall, the visit was very satisfying. The explanation by researchers has made it more easy for me to understand the whole process from A to Z and how the products are being tested and being ensured that they are safe for consumers. It is also great to learn that apart from taking care the need for women, Avon is helping to save the environment by incorporating green features on their building.

Thank you Avon for giving me this opportunity to visit Avon R&D Center, Shanghai.

Here is a photo of the Malaysian group:

Seated from left: yours truly, Mei Sin from China Press, Siti Fatimah Hassan from harian Metro, Soo Wincci, Miss World Malaysia. Standing from left: Aspalin Haji Sirat, Head of Commercial Marketing, Avon Malaysia, Dr. Xiaochun Luo, Avon’s Global Vice President of R&D and Chief Scientific Officer and Elaine Aisyah Abdullah, PR Manager, Avon Malaysia.

 

 

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Applying Visa to visit China

I am leaving for Shanghai on February 28th until March 1st to attend a product launching by Avon Malaysia. The invitation was extended to me early January and I accepted the offer. I will be going with Avon PR Manager and few other journalists. I have never been to China and this is a chance for me to at least step foot on China soil although I am afraid that I won’t be doing much of the touristy thing as I have to cover the product launching and blog from Shanghai. I have been told that a range of exciting programs have been scheduled for us members of the media, so I am pretty much excited about it. I am going to submit the form on Monday at Avon’s office in PJ.

So do we need a visa to enter China? I read on the website that we do not need to apply for visa if we fall under these categories (quoted from http://www.chinese-embassy.info/asia/visa-mys.htm:

You need to apply for a visa unless you belong to the following categories:

(1) According to bilateral agreements, citizens of some countries (List of Agreements on Mutual Visa Exemption between the P.R. China and Foreign Countries) holding appropriate passports may enter China without a visa provided that their stay in China shall not exceed 30 days from the date of entry into China. While in China, they should apply to the department concerned for the extension of the duration of stay in advance if they want to stay longer.

(2) Citizens of Singapore, Brunei and Japan holding ordinary passports may enter China without a visa through the ports of entry open to foreigners provided that they come to China for tourism, family visit, business or transit, and intend to stay in China for no more than 15 days. However, the following personnel of these three countries must apply for a visa in advance if:
a) They are holders of ordinary passports, and come to China for tourism, family visit or business, and intend to stay in China for more than 15 days;
b) They are holders of ordinary passports, and come to China for study, employment, permanent residence or on a news reporting mission; and
c) They are holders of diplomatic and service(official) passports;

(3) Foreigners holding ordinary passports of the countries having diplomatic relations with China and on a tour to Hong Kong or Macao, and participating in group tours to the Zhu Jiang River (Pearl River) Delta Area for a stay of less than six days organized by the travel services legally registered in Hong Kong or Macao shall not need to apply for a visa. The Zhu Jiang River (Pearl River) Delta Area refers to the administrative area of the 10 cities below: Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Zhaoqing, Huizhou and Shantou.

(4) Foreigners who have confirmed onward tickets and seats on international flights and directly transit through China and stay for no more than 24 hours within the airport boundaries shall not need to apply for a transit visa.

(5) No visa is required for citizens of the following 20 countries, who transit through China via Shanghai within 48 hours, no matter what type of passports they may hold: Republic of Korea, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Schengen states — Germany, France, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy.

(6) Citizens holding ordinary passports of the following 19 countries and in group tours to Hainan Province for a stay of less than 15 days organized by the international travel services approved by the National Tourism Administration of China and registered in Hainan Province shall not need to apply for a visa: Malaysia, Thailand, Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Germany, the UK, France, Austria, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, the United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

(7) Part of the personnel of foreign airlines offices resident in China and crew members on international flight and trains are exempted from visa requirements or entitled to simplified visa application procedures in accordance with the agreements between the Chinese Government and the governments of their respective countries.

Except for the foreign citizens mentioned-above, all other foreigners shall have to apply for a visa in advance.

 

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